Spinner Aaron Phangiso may have won the man of the match award for his brilliant two for 17 in four overs when the Highveld Lions beat Fleming’s Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League at Newlands last October, but it was Morris who turned the coach’s head.
Morris took one for 24 in four overs, halting a blazing start to the game by CSK, and also helped seal victory for the Lions with an important 12 not off seven balls at the death, including a massive six.
“I bowled well against Stephen’s team in Cape Town and I also hit a six when I was batting. I then happened to bump into him in a restaurant and spoke to him. He pulled me aside and said he was very impressed with my bowling and said I should keep in touch. It’s funny how things go in cricket … ” Morris told Sapa at the Wanderers on Tuesday.
Three-and-a-half months later, the Super Kings paid a head-spinning $625 000 [R5.5 million] to sign the all-rounder for this year’s Indian Premier League and a dazed Morris can still hardly believe how things have turned out.
“I’m still a bit speechless after going for a price like that and it’s mind-blowing because I modelled my captaincy at school on Stephen Fleming, he was my hero, the ultimate captain with a great cricket brain. And I’ll also be playing alongside people like Mike Hussey, a schoolboy hero of mine too, and Ben Hilfenhaus, who I really enjoy watching bowl,” Morris said.
India is probably not top of the list of places pacemen want to bowl in and the Super Kings are based in Chennai, a particularly spin-friendly venue, so Morris knows the IPL will be hard work.
“I hope I catch a game but it’s going to be a very different environment and pitches, plus there’s the heat. Conditions will be tough but it’s going to be a massive learning experience and a big test of my skills.”
But for now, Morris has to focus on the final cycle of four-day domestic series fixtures, with the Lions needing to beat the Warriors in Port Elizabeth to overcome a 9.66-point deficit behind the Cape Cobras in order to win the title.
Morris has been in top-class form with the ball, taking a superb 26 wickets in five matches at an average of just 16.73 and Lions captain Stephen Cook praised his bowlers for doing “a terrific job”.
“Someone has always stepped up, most of them have 20-odd wickets at a low average. When we played the Warriors in PE in a one-day game, the pitch seamed around a bit, but we have Imran Tahir too if the wicket is low and slow,” Cook said.
The weather has bought some breathing space for the Cobras at the top of the log as the Lions have had two matches washed out in the last three weeks, but coach Geoff Toyana, who has enjoyed considerable success since taking over from Dave Nosworthy at the start of the summer, remains positive his team can still win the trophy.
“The boys are in good spirits, although they are disappointed about the last three weeks, and if we play well enough we might be champions. I trust in the guys that they can do their skills and if we play to our full potential then we can come through,” Toyana said.
The Lions will be at full strength with current internationals Alviro Petersen and Quinton de Kock returning to the line-up and considerably boosting the batting.